Sales of previously owned homes were expected to drop in June, following three consecutive months of gains. But, according to new numbers from the National Association of Realtors, home resales beat economists’ expectations and rose 1.1 percent from the month before. The improvement keeps sales at their highest annual pace since February 2007. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, says the housing market has had a solid first half of the year. “Existing sales rose again last month as more traditional buyers and fewer investors were able to close on a home despite many competitive areas with unrelenting supply and demand imbalances,” Yun said. “Sustained job growth as well as this year’s descent in mortgage rates is undoubtedly driving the appetite for home purchase.” Mortgage rates still hovering near all-time lows may, indeed, be making a difference – especially where first-time home buyers are concerned. In June, for example, the share of first timers rose 3 percent and is now at its highest point in four years. Regionally, sales were up over last year in three of four regions, with the West running relatively even with one year earlier. Inventory, however, remains a concern. In June, the number of homes available for sale fell 0.9 percent and is now 5.8 percent lower than it was at the same time last year. More here.